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Jim departed on his mission, but denomination. After a while the turned more than once to wring the mirth began evidently to slackenprodigal by the hand again. By the yeoman ceased to fill his cupthis time the song in the hall had the dame gave little winks and degenerated into the low comic. starts at intervals—and the nieces Old Kit was in the middle of a were caught in most unmistakable , facetious and mystic ballad known yawns. "Come, then," said old as “ Bung-y'r-eye.” The sentiment Guy, “pass round the tankard once of it was, that an exciseman having more before we part, and as 'tis well seized on a keg which he supposed on in the Christmas morn we'll have contained bung-y'r-eye—the slang a curl (carol, Anglicè). Let Lily beterm for hollands-on opening it, gin : but where's Lily ?” Lily had found a fine young baby inside. disappeared. The alarm caused by Determined to make the best of it, her absence was soon absorbed in he carried the young foundling to a greater one-a shrill female voice be christened, and gave Bung-y'r-eye was heard shrieking out, Fire ! fire ! as the name of the future Christian, and in a few minutes James came and the gist of the ballad was the in, pale and ghastly, shouting out, surprise and perplexity of the par- “Maister, maister, the thatch be son at receiving such a baptismal a-fire !"
J. M. W. TURNER, R.A.
A GENERATION or two ago it was double portion which has actually an article of popular belief that the fallen to his share, must have every possession of genius was not only other excellence claimed for him compatible with folly, meanness, by birthright. It is not enough and pettiness, but that a man could that he is the poet of a nation ; he scarcely be “a great genius” with must be acknowledged the indiviout either an amount of imbeci- dual most worthy, were not his lity which exposed him to the con- contemporaries blind—to be that tempt of his neighbours, or of self- nation's ruler too. Strength and indulgence and vice, which made goodness, and all the more exquisite him justly their horror. Perhaps the qualities of the soul, must belong to idea has not yet entirely faded from him whose possession of the inthe obstinate popular mind, which is communicable gift has been made slow to change its opinions ; but in manifest, even in modes which have the upper levels of intelligence it little to do with the moral qualities. has been for some time replaced by This modern philosophy, which saw a counter idea, not less sweeping, in Burns not the inspired minstrel and scarcely less untrue. It is to only, but, had it not been for blind Mr Carlyle that we owe the prin- fate and adverse circumstances, the ciple which he is at present labori- hero and demigod of his country, has ously attempting to set forth by exercised a subtle influence in conthe difficult process of turning Prus- temporary literature; and perhaps sian Frederick into a lofty hero, has nowhere more fully shown its that Genius necessarily implies all perfect contradictoriness at once to the wisdom, goodness, and perfec- fact and nature than in the eloquent tion, both moral and intellectual, and repeated defences, the webs which can belong to man. A man of cunning argument and specious who has this one divine gift, instead pleading, in which his admirers of contenting himself with the have enfolded the pitiful and scanty
VOL. XCI.NO. DLV.
history of the painter Turner, whose cuitous route of Hero-worship and Life,* so called, has just been given deification, we are brought back to the world.
again to the old vulgar dogma, that If the greatest gifts of intellect of all the inspirations of human are but synonymous with a great life Genius is the one least like to soul—if moral excellence, purity of carry its possessor through the world heart, nobility of mind, are all as with honour and dignity, or to prenecessary parts of creative genius serve his garments unspotted. The as the special faculty of utterance great modern example of this exor of creation, that is peculiar to it traordinary process is the great -the dread dilemma which arises painter whose shabby figure has not when a sudden phenomenon ap- been long enough off the stage to pears, splendid with indisputable permit the possibility of its reprogenius, but deficient in everything duction amid fabulous lights. It which ennobles a mere human crea- has fallen to the lot of this unhappy ture, may easily be divined. How man to attract the adoring admirasuch a thing can be, is puzzling tion of one of the most brilliant enough without any theory to per writers of the day, and, half deified, plex the matter ; but when there to have at the same time his notis no possibility of denying the fact able imperfections accounted for common observers, who do not feel according to the only plausible their own discrimination disparaged hypothesis by which the rights of by the paradox, may admit and genius can be kept intact while its deplore the sad contradiction, or faults are excused. If Turner could even adopt the timid wisdom of have chosen for himself, it is prosilence, and conclude it best to turn bable that he would have rather rethe light away from the unsatisfac- signed the applause than borne the tory figure, and direct it upon the consequent examination and deundeniable productions which are fence. But Turner was not consulted; not inconsistent with themselves and here, accordingly, stands forth, This prudent mode of procedure is, under the strongest light, a figure however, impossible to those who only adapted for twilight and the hold that genius cannot exist by shadows; an unhappy soul, whom itself, but must carry every human common charity is content to accept excellence along with it. Under as a great painter, without special such circumstances the only thing inquiry into his character, but whom to be done is, with the strangest the cruelty of friends forces forth inconsequence, to prove how vulgar into public ignominy, by way of material restrictions and obstacles proving his right, had not circumhave tarnished and limited the di- stances forbidden, to take his place vine soul-have driven it into pain- among the greatest of men. ful corners, where its aspect looks We presume there can be little poor and cowardly only because doubt that circumstances have an of the wicked bonds surrounding effect upon the lives and characters it; and have gained such mastery of men; to say anything else would over its loftier nature as circum- be to contradict flatly the ordinary stances seldom gain over common- opinion of the world. Notwithplace men. Treated according to standing, if one will but look at this plan, the Immortals appear to one's private experience among the us weakly succumbing to tempta- most ordinary
and obscure actors in tions and overborne by influences the life drama, how wonderfully, one which ordinary individuals struggle must allow, character, temper, heart, through without any surrender of and spirit, assert themselves beyond honour; and at length, by the cir- the reach of all external powers.
* The Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A. By WALTER THORNBURY. Hurst & Blackett. 1862.
How triumphantly the poor prodi- neglect, and turned to gall, speaks gal, to whom Providence has given sacrilege and profanity. Such is the the fairest prospects, and whose plea set up for Turner by his worsteps are guarded by love and kind- shippers. Who that ever knew the ness, can vindicate his own instincts generous craft but knows some poor against all the virtuous force of cir- painter toiling through real neglect cumstance surrounding him, and and slights, bearing sharp anguishes go to destruction in its very face! yearly from a hanging committee, Who needs to be taught that ever- meeting with mortifications and disrecurring lesson? Who can be ig- appointments all the harder to bear norant that scarcely a great career because other lives are dependent has ever been made in this world on his own, who yet bears a sweet otherwise than in the face of cir- heart through all his troubles, and, cumstances-in strenuous defiance taking comfort in his art itself, finds of all that external elements could the joy of that restore him always do to overcome the unconquerable to fellowship with all men ? Noble, soul? In the face of such examples, humble, disappointed soul! unconwhat are we to say to the theory scious of any nobility in your humthat adverse circumstances can ex
bleness and brave rebound out of cuse a man born with all the com failure. What was neglect to this pensations of genius for an unlove man would be fortune to you, who ly and ignoble life, a bitter and dis- bear no grudge against the world. contented heart, a course of vulgar Yet, turning from such a spectacle, vice and sordid meanness? Never we are called upon to reverence was genius more wickedly dispar- Turner, and be remorsefully compasaged. That celestial gift to which sionate of his miserable life and God has given capacities of enjoy- niggard heart, because the public, ment beyond the reach of the crowd, once in the days of his youth, was is of itself an armour against circum- doubtful of his pre-eminence, and stance more proof than steel, and soured the lymph of genius in his continually holds open to its posses- soul. Vain pretence and unworthy sor a refuge against the affronts of plea ! If Mr Ruskin, standing the world, a shelter from its con- sadly, as well might any true man, tumelies, which is denied to other before those treasures which he has men. He who reckons of this en- had so great a share in expounding dowment as of something which to the world, had turned our eyes to gives only a more exquisite egotism, the pictures, and hushed with inefa finer touch of selfishness, a subli- fable pity and tears any undue remation of envy and self-assertion, ference to the painter, he would and dependence upon the applause have but done a friend's part to of the crowd, forms a mean esti- the unhappy man of genius, whose mate against which it is the duty wretchedness his over-adoration has of every man who knows better to brought forth naked and pitiful beprotest. Outside circumstances, dis- fore the world. appointment, neglect, dark want For what Mr Ruskin could gloss and misery, have plagued the souls over in a maze of harmonious words, and disturbed the temper of great Mr Thornbury sets forth bare and men before now, but have never, unsoftened in the blaze of day. so far as we are aware, polluted a We will not ask whether the public pure heart, or made a noble mind demanded a life of Turner with so despicable. The bitter soreness of much clamour that the present unappreciated genius belongs pro- author could not forbear; but it is verbially to those whose gift is of only just to say that he has collectthe smallest ; and the man who ed å mass of information larger in excuses a bad life by the pretence quantity, and fuller in detail, than that this divine lymph contained Turner's uncommunicative and sewithin it has been soured by popular cretive character could have war
ranted any one in expecting; and Joseph Mallord William Turner that henceforward nobody can have (an unlucky multiplicity of names, any excuse for reopening the sub- which he seems in earlier life to ject, or gathering again out of mer have eluded by using only the last) ciful oblivion the few facts of the was born—to the great comfort and great painter's life. Little more can delight of his biographer, who rebe said for the performance ; it is curs to the fact on every possible a chaos of material without arrange- occasion, as if it contained somement or form, full of repetitions, thing specially characteristic—the affectations, and Cockneyisms of son of a barber in Hand Court, every conceivable degree of bad Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, in taste. Yet through the muddle, by the year 1775. This humble origin chance or happy fortune—“ more was dignified by no personal supeby luck than good guiding,” as the riority in his immediate progenitors. Scotch proverb has it—the man The barber was a barber of mind may
shabbily visible as in conformed to his fortunes; the the days of his flesh, an unattrac- mother a person of ungovernable tive, sordid figure, giving the lie temper, who ended her life in a sturdily, with obstinate vulgar per- lunatic asylum : not a gleam even severance, to every attempt which of domestic love and comfort shines may be made to make him a poet round the house which Mr Thornand a gentleman. Under no circum- bury is at much unnecessary pains stances could the picture be a plea- to describe, and which he declares sant one; but now that it has been to be “ now so sacred a place in the made, and that no amount of si- eyes of many Englishmen.” Nor lence can
save the unlucky hero does the boy himself awake any from the cruel kindness of his interest in the breast of the unenfriends, our readers may not be dis- lightened observer. Nobody seems pleased to hear, in a form less diffuse to predict any special glories of than Mr Thornbury's, the story of him: somehow the faculty within a man who has enriched the world him gets kindled into expression with so many sunsets and sunrises, by sight of a piece of heraldry, or so many various splendours of storm a drawing of Paul Sandby's, or a and calm, without leaving one print from Vandervelde—which we gracious human reminiscence be- . please ; Mr Thornbury jauntily perhind him to make his fame dear to mits the reader to choose. Then any heart of man. If impartiality he begins to draw cocks and hens, ever could be attained in any hu- and then poplars and waving wilman narrative, here is the unhappy lows by the Thames, when good soul who should have achieved the fortune carries him out to Brentsad distinction of an impartial his- ford to do a little schooling there. tory. The love of his admirers for By the time he is fourteen his their own opinion has, however, drawings are for sale in the winsaved Turner from this pre-emi- dow of his father's shop; a year or nence, and indeed originated in his two later he is a student of the favour a hotter partisanship than Royal Academy, doing for himself could ever have arisen from love at the same time in a variety of of him. Though Mr Thornbury's notable ways : washing - in backhigh-pitched enthusiasm rings false grounds for architects, colouring beside the superlative certainty of prints for printsellers—maintainMr Ruskin, yet all that could be ing, evidently, a very comfortable gleaned in his favour is undoubted- boyish traffic in those productions ly collected in these volumes. The of industry, and by no means kept idea here presented of him is meant back or kept down by adverse fate. to be a lofty one ; how far it justi. Neither is there anything very dark fies either the panegyric or the in the surroundings of his boyhood. apology, every reader can A kind dilettante, Dr Munro, opens judge for himself.
his house and his portfolios to the
boyand his companion Girtin—and, books which were then in fashion, permitting them to study and copy wandering over the country in all as they pleased amid apparently a the freedom of a young artist, makvery good collection of pictures, ing notes and sketches invaluable gave the lads half-a-crown for their for himself, while doing the drawnightly drawings, and entertained ings which paid his expenses and them at supper in a most genial kept him afloat—a perfect probaand encouraging way.
tion for an English landscapethis the only pleasant circumstance painter. His biographer interrupts in Turner's youthful life : he went his account of this industrious life boating on the Thames in many to remind us that “Turner was a a prolonged excursion-he went to bitterly disappointed man,” and to Margate—he made drawings for tell us that some of his engravings illustrated books—he fell in love. entailed a heavy loss upon
the These amusements show little evi- publishers. Notwithstanding, work dence of any lack of youthful in never seems to have failed him; dulgences in his early life. The and a good supply of work is a vul. falling in love, however, of which gar but sure sign of a certain amount Mr Thornbury tells the tale most of appreciation, which Turner was tragically, came to final disappoint- the last man in the world to underment and failure; and in this, value. While steadily supporting which seems to have happened himself by these drawings, he bewhen he was about twenty, lies the gan to exhibit pictures ; and here only substantial reason his candid again we find no such marks of biographer can find, for the dark neglect as were to be expected. A shades of his character. “It helped picture of Sheffield, exhibited at to sour that great generous nature, one-and-twenty obtained loud and burn out of him hope and praise from all the critics ;" at youth with the terrible corrosive of twenty-eight he appears with “ Codisappointment,” says our author, niston Fells," "evidently a great with grandiloquence, but there is painter," says Mr Thornbury; at no corresponding pause of despair twenty-nine he was an Associate of to be recorded in the thrifty and the Academy. To most other men busy existence of the young artist. this would have been marked sucWhen he was little more than six- cess; how it can possibly be supteen he seems to have not only ex- posed to lay the foundation of hibited, but sold his pictures. At bitter disappointment-disappointtwenty he added to his many occu ment almost justifying and cerpations a little teaching, in which tainly excusing the unhappy pecuhe does not show in the most con- liarities of his after life — perscientious or satisfactory light. “He haps Mr Ruskin and Mr Thornbury would be silent and rough, and know; we do not pretend to unleave the puzzled pupils pretty well derstand. There are painters who alone while he thought over some could swallow greater disappointsketch of his own.
He ments than any which up to this was not going to let out guinea time seem to have occurred to Tursecrets for five shillings; so he let his ner for the certainty of admission pupils paint on as they liked," said into the privileges of the Academy, Mr Thornbury, with naïve frank- even at a less early age ; and comness, probably forgetting that he has passion for a man who has attained just attributed a great and generous the first rank in his profession at nature to his hero. Ever busier nine-and-twenty seems to us a most and busier went on the increasing unnecessary waste of sympathy. Few life. Between twenty and twenty- men do so much ; and favoured befive years old he had made expedi- yond the lot of common humanity tions over all the midland counties, are those who succeed in doing through Wales, and the south coast, making drawings for the illustrated During these probationary years